Journey to Ahhh….Part 3

 The Value of a Relationship with a creative, inclusive Architect with Cohousing Experience

Hello again from the forming inclusive and diverse cohousing community of Our Home – Cathedral Park! We’ve been asked by CohoUS to share some of the secret sauce we are employing to bring our community together. In our last post, we talked about the benefits of working in close partnership with a developer that has experience developing cohousing. In this post we want to talk about working with an architectural firm that understands how to build community in addition to buildings

We have been fortunate to work with two architecture firms since launching this project who immediately understood that we wanted our physical surroundings to help us live together as a community. In our initial stages, we worked with Johnston Architects from Seattle, WA to get our first set of drawings. Last year, our developer, UD+P, introduced us to Mahlum Architects of Portland, OR. For the past year or so, we have been working with Mahlum to help solve the challenges brought on by rising Portland construction costs and the need for more density due to the high cost of land in a desirable urban location. We quickly learned that Mahlum also brings a suite of skills and experience around building welcoming spaces for diverse communities, and we realized this partnership was a perfect fit. Mahlum’s “inclusionary design strategies” will ensure a design that will help us to build and maintain our community connections, be accessible to a wide range of ages and abilities, meet our budget, and maximize the use of our sloping urban site. 

Inclusionary design strategies will be seamlessly woven with the principles of cohousing, enhancing the sense of an intentionally supportive community. Still incorporating traditional cohousing elements like the common house, bike storage, laundry, guest facilities, and open space, the design centers the needs of a broader cross-section of society by also addressing aspects of Universal Design, Neurodiversity, DeafSpace, Blind and Low Vision, Staying-in-Place, and Trauma-informed Design. 

These are all big and specific sounding words, but Universal Design is the architectural principle that brings us curb cuts and push-button automatic doors. Anyone with an armload of groceries or a stroller has experienced the universal benefit of design strategies initially intended to make public spaces more accessible. The tenets of inclusionary design take those concepts a step further to design for more than just physical accessibility, to make a safe and welcoming place for all of us. Mahlum’s implementation of these principles has created an exceptionally beautiful design in both form and function and we are so excited to experience how our new home will look, feel, and work for our community. 

The creation of front porch areas for each unit allows moments of community connectivity, but also supports moments of rest for all ages. Clear lines of sight support safe navigation for deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and low vision community members, and also make for seamless transitions for all of us. Designing a variety of gathering spaces, both large and intimate, can aid those with neurodiversity differences manage and control sensory levels. Windows at each individual kitchen provide views to the common open space, creating visual connectivity and a sense of comfort. Most importantly, these elements are built around shared indoor and outdoor community gathering spaces that will nurture a strong and supportive community of neighbors.

We believe that employing thoughtful and proactive architectural design will help OHCP open up the supportive advantages of cohousing to people who haven’t found a foothold in cohousing, and our architects’ experience of working with cohousing communities and multi-participant design committees will provide us with a structure to avoid potential budget challenges brought on by potential backtracking and change orders as our community continues to grow and expand. 

Together we build!

To learn more about this unique living experience, visit Our Home – Cathedral Park at our website

Category: Design

Tags: Accessibility, architect, building community, Buildings, Design, design process, Diversity, neurodiverse

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